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Personal Selling: Build Lasting Customer Relationships

May 28, 2024

personal selling

What comes to mind when you think about sales? Cold emails? Pushy tactics that don’t resonate? Robotic, templated emails that don’t land?

Selling doesn’t always have to be pushy, cold, or robotic. Personal selling and authentic connection-building can lead to natural, warm, and personable conversations that convert prospects into long-term customers and loyal fans.

When salespeople connect with prospects on a deeper level, they can establish rapport, build trust, and personalize the experience from start to finish. But before you jump into conversations with prospects, you need to understand who your leads are and if you should pursue them from a personal selling perspective.

Many companies use lead intelligence software to verify their potential customers and maintain high-quality and accurate contact information in a centralized database. Then, once a lead demonstrates potential for conversion, salespeople can take a personal approach to converting leads into customers.

The 7 stages of the personal selling process

Personal selling involves direct communication, typically through face-to-face interactions, between salespeople and prospective customers to close a deal. It adds a layer of human touch that is often missing in traditional sales techniques.

The personal selling process includes seven crucial steps, and while each step might seem burdensome, it is equally necessary for creating a connection and serving prospects effectively. 

1. Prospecting

The first step of the personal selling process is prospecting and identifying potential customers interested in your product or service. 

Through lead scoring, salespeople can identify which leads they should convert to prospects and prioritize. Qualifying leads appropriately is critical, as only some leads will become prospects. The personal selling process requires a lot of time and effort, and effective sellers must be able to identify who they should pursue for the best results. 

Prospecting activities can include different methods depending on your business strategy, including: 

  • Asking for referrals 
  • Cold emailing or calling 
  • In-person networking events and gatherings 
  • Leveraging social media, such as LinkedIn 
  • Inbound marketing (e.g., emails, newsletters, and content creation)

2. Preparation (or pre-approach)

Once you identify your prospects, salespeople should plan and prepare effectively before the initial contact. The pre-approach process involves research and information gathering. Having all the necessary information ready and available is essential to make an excellent first impression and nail the initial connection. 

The information you should prepare might include the following:

  • Background on your prospect: Do your best research! Learn about your prospects to understand who they are, their challenges, and how you can assist. It also doesn’t hurt to look for tidbits of more personal information to highlight, such as shared interests or professional organizations you’re both part of, to show that you did your homework. 
  • Product or service descriptions: Have clarity on the products or services you offer and have descriptions available. 
  • Prices and available payment options: Be transparent with pricing information upfront to help your prospect determine and understand if your product or solution is even attainable from a budget perspective. If your product or service costs seven times more than the prospect’s annual budget, you want to know that early on so you can move on to better-suited opportunities.
  • Special deals you can offer: Did you know a special offer is enough to influence 80% of consumers to try a new brand? If you can provide a sign-on bonus, discounted upgrade, direct customer support, or any other attractive deal, prepare the details to share when the time is right. 
  • Competitor comparisons: Don’t forget — you still need to sell your company and what sets it apart. Share multiple reasons why your particular company and your product or service are better than the rest. 

As part of the preparation stage, you’ll also want to dedicate time to creating the resources and materials needed for later conversations and presentations, such as slide decks or marketing assets. These might be templates for now, as you’ll likely want to add personalized details and touches once you get to know your prospects.

Once you gather all the necessary information and prepare your initial sales presentation, consider running through your pitch out loud in front of a trusted audience so you can gather feedback and rehearse. You could also incorporate a live Q&A session to practice off-the-cuff responses. 

3. Approach

You’ve done your research, prepared, rehearsed, and are ready to rumble! It’s time to connect with your prospect for the first time during the approach stage. This step involves engaging your prospect or buyer and getting them to interact with you in some way to open the conversational door. 

There are many techniques you can use to kick off a conversation, including: 

  • Asking a question (or series of questions) 
  • Sending a warm greeting or friendly introduction 
  • Giving a genuine and personal compliment 

Remember that first impressions are key! Establish rapport and focus on building trust and genuine connection rather than being forceful and sales-focused. This isn’t the time to pitch your product or service — that comes later.

The goal of the approach stage is to get to know your prospect and understand their needs, desires, and challenges so you can use this information to create a tailored presentation that resonates.

4. Presentation

After establishing a connection, building rapport, and understanding the prospect’s needs and preferences, you're almost ready to present your product or service. Remember the resources and materials you started creating during the pre-approach stage? You can finalize those based on the information you learned about the prospect to deliver a customized presentation. 

Your typical one-size-fits-all pitch deck isn’t going to cut it. Avoid presenting broad and vague information, and instead, focus on how your offering addresses this prospect’s specific pain points. Reference their shared challenges and show them why your product or solution is relevant and meets their needs. 

It’s also essential to note that the presentation stage could include the salesperson standing up and presenting slides, but it could also be a hands-on demo, a live in-person tour, or a demonstration of sorts. 

5. Objection handling and negotiation 

After the presentation, your prospect might have some initial thoughts and reactions. Save plenty of time for your prospect to ask questions, express concerns, or share objections. 

Objections aren’t inherently negative; they’re a normal part of wanting to thoroughly understand and vet a product or service before purchasing it, so avoid panicking and getting pushy. The goal is not to make your potential buyer uncomfortable and forced to buy something from you. Instead, it’s to ease concerns, provide as much information in response to their questions and concerns as possible, and give the potential deal your best effort.

Address the prospect’s objections as effectively as possible at the moment. It’s also helpful to reiterate how they can reach you if additional questions arise and to follow up post-presentation to address any unanswered concerns or questions. 

6. Closing

If you made it this far, great! It’s time to close the deal. Ensure you’ve provided all the necessary information and confirmed that the prospect understands the purchase, price, and other relevant information to make the sale.

At this stage, you might also negotiate various aspects of the agreement, including pricing, payment terms, contract clauses, and related paperwork. 

Depending on the deal's nature and the relationship with your new customer, you could leverage upselling techniques and offer add-ons or upgrades (especially if you mentioned these items early in the process and your customer expressed interest). 

7. Customer nurturing and follow-up

Your work is done, right? Not so fast! 

Ensure you follow up (consider sending a personalized thank you note via email or mail) and ask for feedback or a review, if applicable. Ask the customer about their experience and confirm they have everything they need. 

You can also ask for referrals if the experience went well and both parties are satisfied. Positive reviews and referrals are a surefire sign that the personal selling process was effective!

3 reasons to try personal selling

Is personal selling right for you or your business? Below are some of the top reasons to give personal selling a try. 

1. It provides an opportunity to build trust

According to the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report, 71% of consumers believe it’s more important to trust a brand today than in the past. In the same report, trust appeared in the top three buying considerations, behind good value for the money and best quality. 

Research confirms that trust is crucial for sales success, and personal selling provides a unique and humanized opportunity to do just that. It puts a face to the brand, invites deeper conversations, and, when executed well, is authentic. 

2. You can handle objections as they arise on the spot

Personal selling provides an opportunity to handle objections in real time rather than waiting for a long and drawn-out response, sometimes days after the prospect has made their decision. 

For example, if a seller emails a prospect with their sales pitch, pricing, and deal information, they can respond with their questions and objections, but the seller might wait to get back to them. In the meantime, the prospect could find a competitor and sign a deal with them long before the seller handles objections. 

Additionally, handling objections live and in person lets sellers empathize with prospects through nonverbal cues like open gestures, proxemics, eye contact, and facial expressions. 

3. It adds a layer of flexibility to the sales process

Personal selling allows sellers to be flexible, “read the room” for cues to pivot, and adjust their sales pitch quickly if needed. Not only do sellers have personalization on their side, but they also have significantly more flexibility to make quick choices on the spot that benefit their company and the prospect of increasing the chances of securing the deal.

3 challenges of personal selling

While personal selling can be highly effective, it’s not the best sales strategy for every business and brand. Understanding the goals of your business is crucial in deciding whether personal selling is a reasonable strategy for you. Challenges to be aware of include:

1. The process can be time-consuming

In personal selling, personalization, research, and time are invested in building relationships before closing deals. The seven-step process from start to finish can be incredibly time-consuming due to the level of personalization and detail it requires. 

Personal selling is likely not a good fit for companies wanting to generate high sales quickly. While the return on investment (ROI) of personal selling (long-term customers and more referrals) might be more significant in the long run, some businesses must prioritize a shorter ROI. 

2. It can also be expensive

Personal selling typically comes with a high cost. It can require:

  • Extensive training for sales teams 
  • Travel expenses (in-person meetings, live demos, etc.) 
  • Salary and commission for sales team members 
  • Supporting marketing and sales materials (tools, printed marketing assets, etc.) 

3. Reach is limited at the expense of deeper customer relationships

Sometimes, mass marketing and advertising are the way to go, like when you have a large audience that could benefit from your product or service. On the other hand, face-to-face selling has a limited reach (unless you build a massive sales team, which comes with its own challenges). 

Brands must accept that a personal selling strategy is a trade-off for a broader reach to determine whether it’s a strategy they should consider. 

Take it personally.

Personal selling requires time and monetary investments, but it can have a significant ROI in the long run. It can help you build trust, handle objections, and be flexible throughout the deal process to increase your chances of signing a new customer.

A solid sales enablement strategy is the key to empowering your sales teams on their personal selling journey.

lead intelligence Let's get personal.

Find the right lead intelligence software that focuses on the enrichment, verification, and acquisition of leads for your organization.

lead intelligence Let's get personal.

Find the right lead intelligence software that focuses on the enrichment, verification, and acquisition of leads for your organization.

Personal Selling: Build Lasting Customer Relationships Personal selling helps sales reps build authentic connections with prospects to convert them into customers. Learn the best practices of getting started.
Alyssa Towns Alyssa Towns works in communications and change management and is a freelance writer for G2. She mainly writes SaaS, productivity, and career-adjacent content. In her spare time, Alyssa is either enjoying a new restaurant with her husband, playing with her Bengal cats Yeti and Yowie, adventuring outdoors, or reading a book from her TBR list.

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